The coronavirus pandemic is introducing millions of workers to remote work for the first time. Millions of other workers have joined the freelance economy, or already had jobs that allowed employees to work from home. Whether you are new to working from home, or you have been doing it for some time, there are tips and tricks for staying productive.
It can seem like a dream to be able to skip the commute, dress comfortably, and do your work from wherever is most comfortable in your home. What you might not be prepared for are the distractions that can make working from home a challenge.
Ten tips to staying productive
- Stick to a schedule—It can be tempting to procrastinate and put work off when you first transition to working from home. Avoid the temptation and decide on the best work schedule for yourself, then stick to it.
- Define your workspace—Whether you have a home office, or you will be working from the dining room table, establish your workspace, and organize it comfortably. For those who have a family at home, try to find a place that isn’t central to everyone else’s activities. You might have to be creative and move things around to make this work. If you do not have a home office, but you have a guest bedroom, consider moving a desk or work table into that room to work. Having a door you can close to shut out the chaos in your home can be valuable, especially during conference calls and virtual meetings.
- Start each day with a list—Review your to-do list each morning and plan how to tackle what you need to accomplish that day. It is also helpful to have a master list for the week that you then break down into a daily work schedule.
- Keep in touch with co-workers and clients—If you are working from home due to the pandemic, there is probably a learning curve as your entire team adjusts to remote work. Check-in frequently with co-workers to ensure that there are no breakdowns in communication. Clients expect updates on the status of your progress, so be sure and take the time to call, videoconference, or send an email to inform them of the progress you are making.
- Hold a family meeting and clarify your new work arrangement—If you are new to working from home, this can be critical. Your spouse, children, and other family and friends will need to learn to respect your work schedule. It will be easier if you clarify when you will be working and when you are free to interact with them. Even young children can learn to respect boundaries, with a little training.
- Set realistic expectations for yourself—You can be much more productive when working from home, but don’t try to accomplish a week’s worth of work in two days. Give yourself breaks just as you would in the office. Take 15 minutes to walk around the block, or have a healthy snack. Occasionally stepping away from your work will help your overall productivity.
- Do not try to multi-task household chores while working—When working from home, you will have to work harder to keep your work life separate from your home life. It can seem like a good idea to start dinner while waiting for a conference call or do laundry on your break, but those things will distract you from the work you need to accomplish. Work or home will suffer from trying to multi-task both.
- Dress comfortably—It is one of the benefits of working from home, so take advantage of it. Despite the misconception that people who work from home spend their days in pajamas, most remote workers find it helpful to dress casually for the day.
- Get creative with solutions—If you are struggling to concentrate or feel stuck on a project, try working from somewhere else. You can brainstorm on your patio, or write a report in your recliner. Though it is essential to have a designated workspace, take advantage of not being tied to it. Changing up your routine, or where you are working, can help break a mental block.
- Learn to leave work—One of the most significant challenges of working from home can be learning to leave work. When you work in a traditional workplace, you have the physical act of leaving that helps you to leave work behind. Determine what time your day ends each day, and walk away from work until the next morning.